NAPA - Tourism in the Napa Valley has seen a significant uptick recently, the result of an aggressive push to bring visitors to the region during the off season with a series of new events and an increased marketing capacity that now includes being named the official wine region of the upcoming America's Cup in San Francisco.

The Napa Valley Destination Council, the county's official tourism arm, unveiled early  findings of the tourism improvement district after just a year in place last week, saying that the 2 percent assessment has gone a long way expanding Napa Valley's reach.

Occupancy rates over the year are up about 7 percent throughout the county, while the average daily room rate is up to $235 per night, significantly higher than last year's room rate of around $211 per night, according to Clay Gregory, chief executive officer of the Destination Council. Additionally, revenue per available room was is up by approximately 15 percent over the year. That's an important measure, he said.

"It means it's not at the expense of cutting room rates. At the end of the day, our most important measure is how lodging is doing, and  right now they are very happy," Mr. Gregory said.

Getting more visitors to the Napa Valley during the off season and on weekdays was identified as an early goal of the increased marketing capacity afforded by the TID, and anecdotal evidence indicated that a busy November has set that trend in motion, Mr. Gregory said.

"November was a huge month for us," he said.

The TID was approved by the Napa County Board of Supervisors in June 2010.  In the immediate nine months following that, the assessment, which is applied to guest rooms at hotels, generated $2.4 million. Now in its first full year, Mr. Gregory said the TID is on pace to meet is projected goal of $4.5 million annually. Before the assessment, the Destination Council's marketing budget was a little over $400,000.

It's already paid dividends in attracting visitors during the off season, from November to February, Mr. Gregory said, pointing to a bevy of firsts for Napa, including the high profile, star-studded Flavor Napa Valley food and wine festival, the first-ever Napa Valley Film Festival, the first Wine Tourism Conference in North American, and the roll out of Cabernet Season, stretching from November to April.

"We've accomplished some pretty remarkable things in a remarkably short amount of time," Mr. Gregory said. 

It's a particularly encouraging sign for the Napa Valley, Mr. Gregory continued, given that the U.S. Travel Index has rated American travel interest to be dropping amid a stagnant domestic economy and a European debt crisis that could unravel the economy further still.

"Exactly the opposite has happened in Napa Valley," Mr. Gregory said.

Another new area that will be pursued by the Destination Council is group sales, which previously was up to individual lodging businesses. Prospective clients previously did not view Napa Valley as an ideal group sales location, but that perception is changing as the Destination Council engages in more outreach, according to Mr. Gregory. 

"That's a brand new element," he said. "There are folks who feel that the Napa Valley wasn't interested in that sort of business. We just needed to do a better job of reaching out."

And with the designation as the official wine sponsor of the America's Cup, the Destination Council, along with the Napa Valley Vintners, will be able to reach an international, affluent demographic, Mr. Gregory said. Between now and the final races in the San Francisco Bay in September 2013, only Napa Valley Vintners and Napa Valley Appellations wines will be served at related events and races, giving the region two years of visibility among an international crowd.

"Hotels are very excited about that because of the international nature of who is going to be in San Francisco will be the same demographic.

"One thing we didn't actually plan on was the America's Cup," Mr. Gregory added. "Our involvement is not global but our brand certainly is.